The Actual Birds in The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds

August 11, 2014


When I first started writing my novel about Phil and Lee I called it Strange Birds. I used that working title so long, no other title seemed to fit. Which was a problem when I wanted to submit it. Strange Birds doesn’t exactly scream Romance Novel, does it?

I love the title I chose, but feel the need to let everyone know actual birds are involved. I don’t want anyone thinking “strange birds” is a euphemism or any kind of joke, so here are the actual birds, in order of appearance.


Credit: J. Tanner

I’ve had hummingbird gardens in the past, full of fuchsias and butterfly bushes. Now that I’m on the fourth floor in a north-facing apartment, I have to rely on photographs. Lucky for me, I have an in with some amazing photographers via the Absolute Write Forums.

Blue Heron

These are older and larger than the babies in SB, but they’re so cute! Blue Heron nests are usually 2-3 feet in diameter before the eggs hatch, but are a work in progress as the chicks grow. A nest can grow to over 5 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep to accommodate the long-legged babies. Sometimes it can grow a foot or two overnight, which I learned one spring a few years ago, as I watched a clutch that lived in a nearby park.

Evening Grosbeak

I love these birds—they look like hard cases, but seem to play well with others. When I first moved to Oregon I would check off every new bird species I found. The grosbeaks shared the food with many other types of birds with hardly a scuffle, and, being 6-9 inches long with a wingspan of 12-14 inches, they look cool in large groups.


This juvenile osprey looks about ready to leave the nest permanently. I’ve been lucky enough to watch parents teaching their young to fish at local rivers and lakes. They’re amazing hunters!

Red-tailed Hawk

Almost everyone has probably seen a hawk soaring at one time or another. They make flying look effortless!

Sam the Eagle

Sam isn’t in the avian cast directly but he’s mentioned as inspiration for a work of art, so I had to include him. I loved him on The Muppet Show, always trying to maintain order in the midst of happy chaos. He reminded me of the bald eagle I saw near my little house in the middle of nowhere. That eagle suffered silently as a small group of crows tried to chase him out of the tree. Somehow, he managed to look dignified the whole time. But I still brought my cats inside—he must’ve weighed fifty pounds and could’ve made off with both of them at once without batting an eye.


Have you ever seen a strange or rare bird? I’d love to hear your stories of watching hummingbirds build nests, an osprey hunt or a bald eagle sitting in silence as a family of crows try to chase him out of their tree! Every comment is an entry for all three of my giveaway prizes!



Lee popped the tops on two cans, one in each hand, as he walked across the clearing. He’d spent a few Willston Jubilee weekends working in the beer gardens, and opening twice the number of beers he could drink at once wasn’t the only useless skill he’d practiced. Phil’s eye roll didn’t take anything from the fact that his face wasn’t pointed toward the ground.

“Ch-check it out.” Phil took a long pull from the can as he stepped aside to let Lee look through the viewfinder.

Lee was speechless. The view was like nothing he’d ever seen in real life: a huge bowl-like nest that had to have been made from branches the size of his wrist sat near the top of a tall old maple. Two full-grown blue herons stood outside the nest, and as Lee watched, four or five beaks appeared and started a cacophony of bird sounds.

It was cool, but not cooler than what happened next. Phil moved so close he was almost pressed against Lee’s side, and then he bumped him out of the way with a strategically placed shoulder. Lee took a few steps sideways to keep his feet and when he turned, Phil was snapping photos like a photographer on America’s Next Top Model. And smiling. Not a split your face kind of smile—somehow Phil’s plain joy packed even more of a wallop. Phil was captivated by what he was doing—snapping a series of pictures, fiddling with the settings on his camera, and then snapping few more.

If the guy puts that much effort into sex, I might not live through it.


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Rainbow Rose


Photo Credits: All bird photos courtesy of Wikipedia, except as noted; Red Tailed Hawk photo licensed from Graphicstock.

5 Responses to “The Actual Birds in The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds”

  1. Ardent Ereader says:

    Hi Charley, congratulations on your latest release! I haven’t seen any rare birds but we do have a couple of bird feeders in our front lawn. We call it ‘cat TV’ for our 2 cats. On occasion we do see colorful birds such as red cardinals, blue jays and a few tiny bright yellow birds. Unfortunately we also see those pesky squirrels.
    We were just on vacation in Mexico and we did see several pelicans flying above us, it is quite amazing to see how aerodynamic they are, you wouldn’t think that they could fly.

  2. Sula says:

    We are lucky at the moment (as a housing development is threatening to encroach on delightful small piece of countryside wilderness) to have quite a wild array of British and some not so British birds and animals happily living on our doorstep.

    We have a family of Sparrow Hawks, Tawny Owls(Twit-Twoo) magpies, blackbirds, sparrows, finches, robins, blue tits, thrushes, hedgehogs, woodpeckers, cuckoos, foxes, badgers, as well as a beautiful array of butterflies. We also have an group of those pesky grey squirrels who keep trying to break into our house. Occasionally I might see a small deer wander threw and a heron, swan & ducks land near a small pond. I once saw a sweet little blue kingfisher swooping in to the water seeking fish.

    The not so British visitor is the Muntjac deer and Wallabies that I have seen bounce threw once! The muntjac is most evil and was brought in some years ago to a local stately home safari park, they escaped and have populated the countryside so quickly and are very destructive. My favourite is the occasional black Australian swan.

  3. Susan says:

    I have a small-bird feeder and a hummingbird feeder outside my study window, so watching birds is something I enjoy. Even have my N. American bird guide nearby, as I’ve lived all over the US and always wanted to know what birds I saw. Nothing exotic, but still wonderful.

  4. JenCW says:

    I remember the first time I saw a pair of nesting bald eagles. So amazing and huge. We saw one come in over a lake, grab a fish, and try to make it to the shore with it. The fish was so big that the eagle barely made it to the shore and then promptly went head over heels with the fish. It got up shook itself and took the fish into the trees. Funny to watch but amazing too.

  5. Trix says:

    My town has quite a few rare birds near a wildlife preserve, but I never thought I’d see them in the city proper. Then we got a fountain, and now I see all kinds of them every day! The hummingbirds are my favorites–I think they love the red sage plants. And Sam the Eagle is definitely underrated…Muppet chicks are always very cute, too, with their little tufty heads and shoe-button eyes…

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